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Josh Williams’ Protégé Bryce Applegate Helps Tornado Victims in Kentucky

By Dustin Albino

To the average NASCAR fan, the name Bryce Applegate might not ring a bell. After all, he’s just a 15-year-old from Simpsonville, Ky. 

But over the past two years, Applegate has become a staple of Xfinity Series regular Josh Williams’ developmental program. Williams’ protégé won in his second race with the team in a bandolero car at the Charlotte Motor Speedway quarter miler, a track that has seen the likes of Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Bubba Wallace become NASCAR winners. Turns out the car he won in is older than he is, as it won the 2005 bandolero championship. 

He’s a pile of talent,” Williams told Jayski.com of Applegate. “Really good behind the wheel and we’ve had some really good success over the past [two years].”

Racing became Applegate’s passion over the past few years. At age 10, he visited his local indoor go kart track, where he discovered his love for motorsports. Immediately, he was hooked. 

Away from traveling to hone in on his racing craft, Applegate attends high school online at Martha Layne Collins in Shelby County. Currently, he’s enrolled in the 10th grade. 

But whenever he can get to a track or to Williams’ race shop in the Charlotte area, he’s there. 

“I do all kinds of stuff with Josh,” Applegate said. “I work in the shop with him, stayed with him once and go all over the place with him.” 

That included going to Carteret County Speedway in North Carolina earlier this month. Driving for Williams’ team, Applegate was 11 hours away from home while a string of tornadoes ripped through Kentucky. It devastated many communities across the western portion of the state, leaving at least 77 people dead

Applegate had a poor qualifying run. But he had a workman like night, rebounding to finish fourth after figuring out the track. 

“My mom (Melanie) and I pray before every race and we just wanted to make sure that race was dedicated to them and what happened [in Kentucky],” Applegate added. 

From there, the family embarked on an 11-hour journey back to Kentucky. That left time for plenty of thinking and what they were going to see upon returning home. But while stopping at a gas station, they ran into someone — Applegate believes his name is John — who was going to Kentucky as well. 

“We met one guy that was going down to help with his trailer,” Applegate said. “We figured we could do the same thing, and so that’s how it came about.”

Upon returning back to the Bluegrass State, Applegate came up with the idea of setting up his 16-foot trailer on Dec. 13 behind Landis Lakes’ CVS. On a whim, the goal was to raise as much money and get as many materialistic items as possible for the tornado victims in Dawson Springs, Ky. 

After the first day, Applegate recorded the total numbers of items that were to be donated. That included 132 blankets, 227 baby bottles, 266 hygiene items, 378 cans of formula/food, 22,654 diapers and 50,022 wipes. On top of that, he raised $5,000 in donations for the tornado victims. 

“I was really surprised because you hear so much about people being bad and not giving anything,” Applegate said of the first-day turnout. “It was nice to see people give to a small trailer that nobody really knew about.” 

The next day, Applegate set up his hauler in Louisville to collect more supplies for the tornado victims. After that, they went to Madisonville, Ky. to do much of the same. 

In total, Applegate collected nearly $10,000 in donations and a large bulk of material supplies, filling his trailer up three times. He dropped everything off at a former Staples building, home to one of the main distribution centers in Madisonville after the tornado. 

“It was really cool because it’s just like the true meaning of Christmas is giving to people who don’t have,” Applegate said. “Everything was gone; they woke up and had nothing around them. They need something to help, so it was cool to see everything that happened over those three days and see the trailer fill up. A 16-foot trailer filled up in like three hours.” 

Williams, who’s synonymous with his Josh Williams Hospital Tour since 2015, believes it says a lot about Applegate’s character. But it’s not the first time the Kentuckian has given back, as he often dedicates time to keeping up with Folds of Honor and Wreaths Across America. 

“He’s always been real giving,” Williams said. “It’s cool to see another kid out there giving back to a certain cause. He’s got his own deal going for him and that’s pretty neat. 

“He wants to be able to give back and help in any way he can. I hope he continues to grow that and continue to do more things for people.”

Applegate confirmed he plans on continuing to give his time to those in need.

This upcoming year, Applegate will again compete for Williams’ developmental team. The plan is to run in a few late model stock races, as he made just one late model start in 2021, cutting a right front tire at Hickory Speedway. Williams hopes the duo can come up with additional funding to eventually put Applegate into one of Josh Williams Motorsports’ ARCA Menards Series cars over the next few years.